Home at Last

Home At Last

Disclaimers: The usual. The franchise owns them; I'm just playing
with them. Commander Weatherford is my own, though.
Rating: PG 13 for language and sexual situations. R if your young
and think anything other than male-female sex in a missionary
position is kinky.
Summary: Starts at the end of ST IV and continues. McCoy ponders
his future. Stands alone with my other writings.
Thanks to Birgit and Janet for the advice, and thanks to others for
the inspiration (Marcy, Nikita, Lyra, Jazz, Kathryn, and any one else
who recognizes something they wrote and wrote better)

Leonard McCoy tried to drink his coffee, but he just couldn't seem to
stomach it black anymore. He dumped some out into the waste recycler
and went to add some milk, anything to keep from crawling out of his
skin. Anything to keep from talking to his friends right now. He
couldn't help feel that he was to blame for their predicament. He
knew he should be the one to try to lighten the mood, but he just
couldn't bring himself to even try. So he sipped his coffee and
stared out the window of the holding room at nothing in particular,
ignoring the banter of his crewmates as the pondered their fate.

Well, here goes nothing, he thought. At least if they drum us out
for good they won't ever 'reactivate' me again. It's a shame,
though. The others were just being loyal; Jim and I ought to be
facing this alone. And, god knows the man's lost enough this time.
His son, his ship, now we're lookin' at jail time, and he'll feel
like it's all his fault. Spock, why in the hell didn't you leave
your katra with Scotty instead of me? Maybe Scotty could've handled
it, maybe he would have been able to explain why we needed to go to
Vulcan in the first place and Jim wouldn't have had to steal the
ship. Scotty always drinks his coffee with milk, anyway.

Spock wasn't with them in the holding area, but McCoy thought of him
nonetheless. I'm glad your alive, Spock, and I'm glad you're going
to be well, and Lord knows we owe you our lives for what you did on
the Enterprise, but what *were* you thinking, man, to leave me your
katra? I'll never understand your thinking on that one.

If there had been time, would you have tried to reason with me
instead of nerve pinch me? Do you think me so unreasonable that I
wouldn't have understood we were all gonna die if you didn't go in?
Or did you know . . .did you know that I would have gone in with
you? Did you know that I wouldn't have let you die alone if I could
have helped it?

And that's just what happened wasn't it? You died alone. Despite
your talking with Jim, you died alone. And I stood by and did
nothing but watch. Alone.

And now . . . now what? You're back, mostly. But why is it you
manage to look at the others, but still look past me. Hell, what I
wouldn't give to have you fight with me, tease me in that subtle
Vulcan way of yours. Why are you finally back with everyone but me?

McCoy was brought out of his reflection by the swish of the door.
The others quieted immediately, but he did not turn to see who had
come for them.

"They are ready for you, Admiral."

McCoy recognized the smooth alto tones.

Great, he thought. Just great. Bad enough my friends and I are
gonna be strung up by our thumbs, but it has to happen in front of
her, too.

"Thank you, S.K. We're ready." Kirk offered. "But this must be bad
if they've sent you to handle it." The joke fell flat, unfortunately,
because it was true. She only got the worst cases.

Sarah Katherine Weatherford, Commander, Starfleet Special
Communications Liaison, otherwise known as S.K. or 'the PR person.'
Secretly feared (known as the PR Bitch) and revered (and also the PR
diva) for what she knew and how she revealed it. The only PR rep he
had ever liked, and given the affair they'd been having off and on
for over two years, the only PR rep McCoy had ever bedded.

"I honestly don't know what you can expect, Admiral. I asked to be
here today. I have a duty to remind you all that you are entitled to
Starfleet legal representation. I've got Commander Hanadi and
Captain Pritchard standing by if you want them."

"Hanadi and Pritchard? Ve are in more trouble than I thought,"
Checkov groaned.

McCoy turned to join the group for the first time. He hadn't seen
her since right before the training mission. In fact, he'd left
Jim's apartment, called her to come over to his place, and spent the
night with her before reporting to the ship the next morning. He
knew her better than anybody in the room, and he suspected he knew
her better than just about anybody in the fleet. And at this moment,
he couldn't read her at all. She was wearing that competent,
professional mask of hers that said, "Go ahead and ask, but I won't
tell you anything." He knew he shouldn't, but he couldn't help
himself. "How'd you manage to line them up? Promise them your first

"On the contrary, Doctor, I promised them I wouldn't breed." Her
expression stayed cemented for a good three seconds, and then she
wrinkled her nose and stuck her tongue out him. He laughed in spite
of himself and the others did too. And he knew that was exactly the
reason she'd done it.

"If you'll proceed to the council chamber, please." She let them all
pass in rank order, then she caught up to walk along his side.

"Brat," he whispered. His way of saying "Thanks for the moral

"So spank me," she whispered back. Her way of saying, "You're

And actually, that wasn't a bad image to leave him with if he never
got to see her again after the sentencing. They were halted before
the doors waiting to be allowed entrance. She went to the door and
faced them all again. "I know it's not worth much at this point. But
I think Starfleet was wrong to deny your initial request. And I for
one am grateful for all of your efforts over the last few days." She
caught his eye just before entering the chamber alone.

"Why can't all PR people be like her?" Sulu wondered.

"If she weren't on our side," Scotty asked, "would you still want
that, lad? Rumor has it, she has any number of body parts from the
media-mongers and fleet staff stashed in her office from her

"It's not true," he chimed in, "the body parts are gift-wrapped and
sent back to their original owners. It's neater that way."

Any response to McCoy's claim was cut off as the door was opened for

He took his place, making room for Spock to stand at Kirk's side. He
wasn't surprised, but he had rather hoped Spock would save himself on
this. After all they didn't go through Hell just to have him end up
on some moon doing rehab and working in a laundry.

They heard the President say, "Captain Spock, you do not stand
accused" though McCoy couldn't help feeling as if he were someone
else watching the whole thing.

"I stand with my shipmates. Their fate shall be mine." McCoy heard
Spock clearly, but seemed to hear an echo in his mind, too.

And then came the charges: "Conspiracy; Assault on Federation
Officers; Theft of Federation Property; namely the Starship
Enterprise; Sabotage of the U.S.S. Excelsior; willful destruction of
Federation Property, specifically the aforementioned U.S.S.
Enterprise; and finally, disobeying direct orders of the Starfleet

"On behalf of all of us, Mr. President," he heard Jim but did not
look at him, "I am authorized to plead guilty."

Well, we are, McCoy thought. I can plead diminished capacity, but
that hardly matters now. And then he heard the charges dismissed, and
then wonder of wonders, Jim was only losing rank and getting a ship

McCoy never heard the rest. Relief flooded him. Strange considering
he really didn't know what it all meant. He could still be assigned
to some ball of mud in the farthest quadrant, but somehow the fact
that Jim was going to get a command made the galaxy seem right.

He accepted the congratulations of the others. Spoke briefly with
Chapel, extended his best wishes to Gillian, and then watched Spock
as he spoke with Sarek. More importantly, he watched Jim watch Spock
and Sarek. And he made up his mind, with a strength that surprised
him given his utter exhaustion. It was time.


He turned to see Sarah Kate at his side. "Hi, sorry I haven't been
in touch lately," he offered lamely.

"Hi, yourself. And under the circumstances, you're forgiven." She
smiled with her eyes as she often did with him. He never ceased to
marvel at the limpid quality of her green eyes. "I'm sorry, but I
need you to be part of a press conference. I promise I'll have you
out in hour."

That he merely nodded his acquiescence he knew would surprise and
probably worry her, but that was all he had the energy for.

"You okay?"

"I will be."

Somehow she managed to get them all sequestered in another room.
Finally Jim and Spock joined them.

"I *am* sorry." She waved them to sit around the conference table. "I
know you haven't been to your homes yet, and I can imagine that the
last several weeks are beginning to catch up with you. But I figured
it was better to handle this now and get the media off your backs
than have them trying to get to you at your residences. In fact, if
anyone wants it, I've made reservations for you at the winery if you
want to crash there for a day or two until things die down."

The winery was code for a small resort in up in Napa Valley that
Starfleet sometimes used for visiting dignitaries and fleet personnel
who needed to hideout. She had taken him there once for a weekend he
remembered fondly as energetic.

Jim looked at them all for confirmation. "Thanks, S.K., but we just
want to go home."

"That's what I figured. Here's the drill. The President and Admiral
Morrow are giving their statements now. The press has the official
statements you made last night and your briefing reports from
yesterday. When the President and Morrow are done answering
questions about the sentencing, we'll go in. I'll set the ground
rules, and you'll be out in one hour. Promise."

"And how do we avoid the feeding frenzy outside? Escape out the back
way? Or you gonna beam us directly home?" McCoy asked with some of
his old sarcasm making a return.

"No," she said adamantly. "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
You go out the front door, and into the limo waiting for you. Once
there you'll find envelopes for each of you."

"More instructions, S.K.?" Kirk wanted to know, his patience starting
to wear a little thin.

"No, Admir-" She caught herself first. "No, Captain. It dawned on
me that you folks haven't been paid in awhile." She was gratified to
see them return her smile. "You'll find your back pay, and the new
codes to your residences. Sorry, but everything you had was locked
up while you were on Vulcan. And Captain Spock, I'm afraid that
given the reports of your death your belongings were packed and
moved. I couldn't get your belongings released until just a few
hours ago, but I was promised that everything would be returned to
you first thing in the morning. I've arranged for a temporary base
residence if you wish it this evening."

"Thank you, Commander. You are most helpful."

"Well . . .there is another matter, Captain Spock."

"Yes?" One eyebrow went up. Spock's patience was wearing thin, too.

"You *were* dead, sir. I tried to argue for granting you a leave or
claim it as your vacation, but in accounting's infinite wisdom they
have chosen not to pay you for the period between your death on the
Enterprise and the time you assumed the science station on the
Klingon ship. Your pay reflects that, sir."

"Understood, Commander."

"What about his death benefits?" McCoy groused.

"Never claimed." She answered seriously, but then her expression
changed, "But be thankful I convinced accounting that they couldn't
charge you twice on your insurance for yourself and Spock's katra."

"Thanks, S.K." Kirk laughed. "We do appreciate your help. Anything
else we need to know?"

"Just that if you're interested, the party room at Bexxi's has been
booked for you in my name. The first round is on the President, the
appetizers are on a certain Vulcan Ambassador, and dinner is on

McCoy wondered aloud, "Do they know that?"

"Well, Sarek does." McCoy loved how she could feign innocence.

The press conference actually went according to plan. No one asked
anything too stupid, especially of a certain stoic Vulcan. Jim got
the group to laugh a couple of times. Scotty, Sulu and Chekov all
said the appropriate things. Uhura did too, and managed to praise
the Vulcans for their hospitality and help in the process. Perhaps
his reputation preceded him, but he only got included in the group
questions, that is until near the end.

McCoy heard Sarah Kate call on the guy in yellow shirt again. Seve,
was his name. He didn't know what media he represented. But he knew
the question was coming; it was only a matter of time. But he was

"Doctor McCoy, what was it like to carry Captain Spock's katra?"

"Well ya have to realize that I didn't know I was carrying it at
first. Then when I realized I was, I didn't know what to do with
it. Geez, it's not like the man gave me his shoes or something.
Course they wouldn't have fit, his feet are bigger than mine. And
his katra didn't fit either. It's bigger than mine too." He waited
for the laughter to die down. "But I am thankful that I was there to
receive it when he needed a place to put it. And I'm deeply honored
that he trusted me with it." And he was too. He would never
understand Spock's actions, but somehow he knew he would always
treasure them. He hoped Spock understood that.

"What was the refusion like?"

"I know this is going to sound like I'm avoiding your question, but
I'm not. I can't tell you what the refusion was like."

"Do not you remember, Doctor McCoy?" This asked by the older Nevian
next to Seve.

"Yes, I do remember. I remember the fal-tor-pan very well. But as a
friend recently pointed out to me, unless you've experienced it
yourself you don't have a real reference point. I'm not sure there
are words--at least in Standard--that can explain it. I'm grateful
that Ambassador Sarek requested it. I'm grateful that T'Lar managed
it. And I'm very grateful that Captain Spock's katra was restored to
him and that he is with us once again."

McCoy saw Sarah Kate move out of the corner of his eye, but he halted
her progress by continuing. "And while I have the floor, I would
like to take the opportunity to thank my crewmates and especially
Captain Kirk. Their efforts saved not only Captain Spock's life, but
my own as well. I've been told I have another grandchild on the
way. Thanks to the people you see up here and their tremendous
efforts, I'll be around to enjoy that baby when it gets here."

He didn't look at his friends, he couldn't risk it. But he knew from
Sarah Kate's gaze as she returned to the mic that she knew he'd
finally made up his mind. And he knew she disapproved.

"That's all, people. We promised these folks that they could get
home. Someplace they haven't been in over three months. And since
they recently saved your sorry butts, as well as mine, I expect you
to let them get home in peace and stay home for a while without being

The press took her comment with the humor it was intended and
departed quickly to file their respective stories.

He felt everyone breathe a collective sigh of relief as they were
ushered back into the hall and towards their waiting ground car.

"Captain Kirk, I have just one question."

"What's that, S.K.?"

"Who is that" she turned away from Jim and pointed at him, "and what
have you done with Leonard 'Curmudgeon' McCoy?"

"Now wait a minute," he challenged but she cut him off.

"I mean, come on, gracious, charming, witty, and doesn't avoid any
questions. That's not the McCoy I know and fear."

"It isn't," Kirk mocked with his own brand of sarcasm. He had
discovered their romance, but not until six months into it.

"Well with me, maybe, but not with the media! What's up?"

"Well, I missed your birthday while I was on Vulcan," he
shrugged. "Consider my good behavior a belated present." He leaned
over to kiss her on the forehead. "Forty and still fabulous, m'dear."

She rolled her eyes at him.

"Will you join us a Bexxi's, S.K.," Uhura asked.

"Thank you, no. I still have a report to file this evening. But
please, enjoy yourselves. You certainly deserve it."

They managed to make their way into the ground limo and the driver
passed out their respective envelopes with back pay and security
codes. McCoy almost asked to be taken home, and he realized that the
others wanted to go home too. But he also realized that they also
didn't want to. They had been through too much this time. A few
hours more, together, to try and put it all in perspective were
needed. So he said nothing when Jim gave the order for Bexxi's. Jim
wasn't ready to face his home yet. He'd gotten them through Genesis,
through the stay on Vulcan, and through time and back. They would
stick around and get Jim through the evening. It was the least they
could do.

But McCoy reached a point midway through dinner when he knew if he
didn't leave that he was gonna lose his mind. He had dutifully been
part of the conversations, but he had also kept a close eye on
Spock. He found that he just couldn't watch him anymore. He
couldn't watch Spock chat with Scotty about the Klingon engines,
couldn't watch him discuss the whales with Uhura, and really couldn't
watch Spock watch Jim. I'm old, he thought. I used to be able to
deal with Spock, deal with my feelings for him, but not anymore. I
watched him die, I saw him come back to life. He has a second chance,
but we still don't have one.

Once Jim had given him the lexorin he'd managed to get some control
over the katra in that he'd been able to distinguish between the
jumbled memories and emotions. He couldn't control when Spock's
would suddenly overtake him, but at least he'd been able to know
which was Spock and which was him. Time and time again, he'd felt
Spock's pull toward Vulcan . . .and pull towards Jim. He couldn't
begrudge him that pull. He'd always thought that there ought to have
been something more between them. He'd just always wanted something
more with Spock for himself. He'd never really hoped for anything
more, he wouldn't let himself. But now seeing Spock with a second
chance, seeing Spock with Jim, he knew he couldn't continue to be the
third wheel. He was too old and too tired to do so, and yet too
young to resign himself to "might have beens" and "what ifs." Time
to move on, Leonard. You did it once before and made a pretty good
life for yourself. You're young enough to do it again.

McCoy didn't want to feel like the one breaking up the evening, and
he didn't want to feel like he couldn't leave either. In the end, he
took the coward's way out. He excused himself to the men's room, and
never returned to the table. But he did tell Bexxi to deliver
another bottle of champagne and tell the group that the Doc was going
home to check up on some three-month-old consults.

He couldn't take the limo and leave the others stranded, so he
grabbed an airtaxi and went home. He managed to dig the security
code out of his pocket, reset it to something he would remember, and
went in. He called for more lights and almost stepped on a puppy.

"Okay, I know I've been gone awhile, but I sure don't remember having
you?" He reached down and picked up the little guy--yep, he checked,
it was a little guy. And fighting to get his fingers away from sharp
little teeth, turned the dog to read the name embroidered into the
collar. Mycroft. A bulldog puppy named Mycroft. That meant that
the sounds coming from the other room were Sarah Kate.

"Sarah Kate!"

She emerged from his bedroom wearing tight, faded blue jeans and a
loose white blouse. She was barefoot, and he didn't have to get any
closer to know that her toenails would be painted the same color as
her fingernails.

"You're home early! You're not supposed to be here yet." She wasn't
exactly faking her annoyance.

"And you're not supposed to be here at all." McCoy absently petted
the puppy.

"And if you hadn't come home so soon, I wouldn't have been," she
offered matter of factly. Then she smiled and walked over to
him. "I see you've met the new love of my life." She stood close to
him and reached out and petted the puppy he still held.

"Yeah, I almost tripped over him."


"When did you get him?"

"A couple of weeks ago. I had to put Nero down while you were on

He looked at her closely. She loved her dogs. "I'm sorry, Katie
Sarah, I know that was hard."

"Yes, but this little one is helping. Though you might want to put
him down. He's still young enough and excitable enough that he might
let go on your uniform any second."

"Ah, good point." He set the dog down, removed his jacket and tossed
it over the couch. "Now what are you two doing here?"

"I brought a few things over so you wouldn't have to rely completely
on prefabricated food until you got to the store. And I wanted to
make sure you had clean towels in the bath and fresh sheets on the
bed." She had been watching the dog sniff at his boots, but when she
finally looked up at him again, he could see the tears forming. "I'm
so glad you're safe. I'm so glad we're all safe. Do you think you
could hold me a minute."

"C'mere you." He wrapped his long arms around her pulling her
softness to him, smelling the shampoo he had forgotten all about,
feeling her sigh--letting herself get rid of the tension of the last
few days. It suddenly dawned on him that while they might have
failed in bringing the whales back, or might have been trapped in the
wrong century, if they hadn't succeeded she and everything he knew
here would have been wiped out.

He nuzzled his chin in her hair, felt her place a kiss on his
throat. He heard her whisper, "I missed you. I heard about the
incident in the bar, and then when you took off for Genesis, I really
wasn't sure I was ever going to see you again."

He just held her tighter. That was all he could do. He knew that he
hadn't thought of her since shortly after Spock's death, before he
started to lose it, and he hadn't thought of her but two or three
times after the refusion. He wondered why he didn't feel more
guilty, and again he chalked it up to being tired. Still, he was
standing here in low lighting with a very beautiful, highly
intelligent, and frequently sexy woman in his arms and his hands
seemed to have a will of their own as he realized they were roaming
all over her back. When they found their way to her butt, his cocked

She felt it and rubbed herself intimately against him. But her next
question was not exactly foreplay. "You're thinking of resigning
again, aren't you?"

"Shhhhh." Their lips met in a sweet familiarity. Comforting at
first, but then she pulled back to look at him. With all intent and
scrutiny, and he suddenly wanted to not be the object of that
serious, icy gaze. He did *not* want to have that kind of discussion

"Hey," he whispered slyly. "Wasn't there some comment made about my
spanking you?" He deliberately placed his hands on her backside and
patted both cheeks suggestively.

"You're not going to tell me what happened are you?"

"You've read the reports, Sarah Kate. You know what happened." He
kept patting her butt and started nibbling that sensitive spot below
her ear.

"You know what mean."

"Hmmm. Hmmm." He moved one hand cup her breast.

"And you're not going to tell me what you plan to do now that the
charges have been dropped, are you?"

"Nope. Not tonight." Fortunately, they had been together long
enough and frequently enough that he knew just what to do to distract
her train of thought. He got her locked into a kiss and smacked her
hard across the butt.

Her moan was drowned out by the yapping of the dog, who had left his
place under the end table to come and jump on his leg.

"Uh oh. Guess he's already getting protective. Maaayyyybbeeeee,"
she began running her hands over his chest, "we could save that for
some other time and entertain ourselves another way."

He sighed. "You know what I would really like, darlin?"

She patted his chest in a sign of resignation. "To take a long, hot
shower and crawl into a nice, clean bed . . . alone.

"And sleep for a week. Would you mind terribly?"

She just shook her head 'no.' "I told you. I didn't expect to be
here when you got home. This has been a pleasant but unexpected
reunion. But I called in an order from the bakery for your breakfast
tomorrow. I suggest you go take your shower, and as soon as it
arrives I'll let myself out."

He kissed her again. "You're too good to me, ya know that?"

"I know," she said not unkindly. "I can't help it that I have a
thing for handsome, older guys with blue eyes and a cute tush." She
kissed him again. "Will you call me in a couple of days?"

"Yep." He said running his hand through her hair.

"Take me dancing?" She nipped at his chin.

"Yep, and I'm gonna go take that shower now before my body reacts
more and Mycroft here sees something he's too young to see." He
patted her behind, kissed her one final time, grabbed his jacket, and
headed towards his bedroom.

She slipped on her shoes, poured three fingers of bourbon into a
tumbler, drank one, and was just getting ready to take the tumbler
into the bedroom to leave for him when the door chimed. Expecting
the bakery delivery, she almost dropped the glass when she opened the
door to find Captain Spock--Capt. Spock holding a bakery box--and she
belatedly realized trying to keep the dog from escaping out the door
with his foot. Spock extended the box in her direction and reached
down to pick up the puppy.

"Uh, good evening Captain Spock."

"Good evening, Commander. I hope I am not intruding."

"No sir. I was just waiting for this" she gestured with the box "and
was preparing to leave."

Spock held the puppy up to look into his eyes. "He appears to be a
fine canine specimen. Mycroft. I had an ancestor named Mycroft."

Not knowing what to say to that, she put the box and glass on the
side table and took the puppy from him.

"I encountered the delivery person on the way up the walk."

"Thank you."

"Is Dr. McCoy here?"

"Yes, sir. Leonard was just getting ready to take a shower."

"Ah. I merely wished to see that he was well. When he left the
dinner early, I grew concerned. "

"You should be concerned." Though she still held the puppy gently,
her tone of voice had clearly gone to the defensive. "Are you aware
that he is considering resigning his commission?"

"I was not, but that is his prerogative." Spock remained outwardly

"Yes it is. Except that he is considering it for the wrong reason."

"In your opinion, Commander?"

She didn't have a reputation for unruffable feathers for nothing, but
her feelings toward Leonard did have a tendency to get the better of
her. "Well, then Captain, what do you think of a decorated officer
who resigns not because he wants to, or even because he has to, but
because he doesn't know what else to do."

"I am afraid I do not understand."

"Do you know why my relationship with the doctor has been on again
and off again for so long?"

"That is hardly my affair."

"An interesting choice of words, but I don't believe in
coincidences. Do you consider yourself his friend as well as his
commanding officer?"

"We were not discussing my relationship with the Doctor, Commander

"Oh, but I was, sir. You see, I'm second. Number two. I'll always
be second. I know that, but he refuses to realize that I'm okay with
that. He won't accept me because he's romantic enough and passionate
enough to think that folks shouldn't just settle."

"Again, I must repeat that I do not understand your meaning or what
this has to do with the doctor's contemplation of resignation."

"Then here," she picked up the glass and thrust it in his
direction. "Take this in to him. Ask him why he is considering
resigning, and make sure you get the real answer. Ask him why he's
willing to settle for nothing instead of his second choice."

She got passed him and through the door, but before it closed she
turned back. "Just know this, Captain: you hurt him, you do it
quickly and as painlessly as possible. You drag it out, you make him
feel like he's less of a man or unworthy in any way, and I'll cut out
your chenesi and serve them to the dog."

It was a long moment before it registered that she had spoken to him
in Vulcan, not Standard.
Spock walked into Leonard's bedroom attempting to glean understanding
from his conversation with the Commander. She was known for her
precise communication, but he failed to understand much of what she
had just said. Clearly emotional, given her threat. Spock's
suspicions were aroused, but he would not permit himself to theorize
without more data.

Once in the room, Spock hesitated. He did not want to interrupt
Leonard's shower, but he knew from sharing a bath with him on board
that Leonard could take very lengthy showers. Still, he opted to
wait and sat in the chair in the corner. He did not have to wait

McCoy emerged wrapping a towel around his waist. Which he almost
dropped upon seeing the Vulcan. "Jesus, Spock! You scared the hell
out of me. What are you doing here?" Leonard managed to rewrap the
towel securely and stood in the doorway between the bath and bedroom.

"I grew concerned when you left dinner without saying anything. I
wished to see if you were well."

"No, I mean what are you doing in my bedroom, lurking like a Argelian
loony bird?"

"I was not lurking, Doctor. The Commander suggested I bring this to
you." Spock looked closely at the glass. "Though it appears from the
cosmetic traces on the glass that she has drunk from it."

"Give it here, Spock. I've exchanged bodily fluids with the woman,
it's not like I'm gonna be put off by a lipstick stain, especially
since knowing her she got out my best bourbon."

He crossed and took the glass from the still seated form. He needed
this drink, needed to be in something other than a towel, and he
really needed Spock to leave. The bourbon was, as he suspected, his
best. It was very smooth going down.

"Ah, that is good."

"Now, Doctor, would you mind explaining why you left the dinner
without saying anything?"

McCoy thought quickly and decided to go with at least a partial
truth. "Well, it sorta came on me suddenly. I guess I should have
known better than to order prime rib after having spent three months
as a vegan. But the digestive track being what it is, I'm fine now,
and I appreciate your concern. And would you mind . . .?" He
gestured to he door.

"You wish me to leave?

"Spock, I'm standing here in a towel, dripping."

That earned him a raised eyebrow.

"Well forgive me if I'm not like Jim and I don't get a kick out of
parading around the galaxy without my shirt."

"I have seen you in various states of undress before, Leonard."

"Oh fine." He dropped the towel and stomped naked to his dresser,
pulled open the second drawer with more force than was necessary, and
grabbed the first thing he came to. Realizing, as he was putting
them on, that he had grabbed the white silk pajamas that Sarah Kate
had given him at Christmas. Not exactly the modesty he wanted at the
moment. He fastened the bottoms and pulled the top around him trying
to close it, though it had no fasteners of any kind. He trudged out
of his bedroom. "I'm hungry, let's see what's in the damn bakery
order. It did get here, didn't it?"

"I believe it was left on the table near the door." Spock followed
behind. The pajamas and the glimpse of Leonard's naked form earlier
revealed what the uniform had not. "You appear to have lost weight
while on Vulcan."

"More like since you died. Only a couple of pounds anyway, and it'll
come back in no time. Overnight, if I find what I think I'm gonna
find in this box." McCoy grabbed the box and made way to his
kitchen. Spock maddenly still following

"Then you are well?"

"Yeah, tired, but I imagine we all are--even you."

"I will admit to the stress of the last several days, and I find to
my surprise that regaining all of my memory has had a tiring effect."

"You think it's all back, then?"

"I can discern no gaps, but of course it will still take some time to
know for sure." Spock sat on the center stool by the island.

"Good, then can you tell me what the hell you were thinking leaving
me with your katra?"


"You heard me! What. The. Hell. Were. You. Thinking?"

"I thought you understood. As a Vulcan with knowledge of his
imminent death I followed tradition and entrusted my katra to you."

"I get the tradition part, Spock. What I don't get is the 'me'
part? Why didn't you leave it with Scotty?"

"Mr. Scott was unconscious at the time."

"You NERVE PINCHED me. I was unconscious, too."

"That was controlled. I knew how long you would be out. I had no
such knowledge in Mr. Scott's case and I could not risk that he would
not be around to continue to see to the ship's repairs."

"But by knocking me out, there wasn't anyone around to help Scotty if
he didn't come out of it on his own."

Both eyebrows climbed the forehead. And Spock was forced to accede,
at least nonverbally, that *that* had not occurred to him.

"Well, why didn't you give it to Jim before you left the bridge? It
sure seemed to keep heading in his direction anyway."

"Excuse me, Admiral, but I need to go fix the core and expose myself
to lethal radiation, might I have a moment of your time to form a
meld with you?"

"Was that sarcasm? From you?" McCoy couldn't quite keep the grin off
his face.

"It would appear that sharing my katra with you has had some negative

"Serves you right."

"Doctor . . . Leonard. You were the logical choice for many
reasons. If my katra seemed to pull you towards Jim, it is only
because you--in trying to come to terms with my katra--were taking
the logical steps to return to Vulcan. Convincing Jim was that
step. I am grateful you were in engineering, Leonard. I regret any
discomfort that carrying my katra caused you. I did not anticipate
that and still can find no satisfactory reason for it. And I ask
your forgiveness in not offering my apologies and gratitude earlier."

"Well, weren't you the one always telling me that there is no need to
thank logic?"

"Still, I am indebted to you, and I am indebted to T'Lar for helping
you through the fal-tor-pon."

Growing uneasy with this, McCoy changed the subject. "You want some
milk to go with whatever is in this box?"

"Juice would be preferable if you have any."

"I don't know what I've got. Sarah Kate stocked up for me, but I
know she wouldn't have ordered from Concannon's Bakery without there
being milk in the house."

"Why do you call her Sarah Kate instead of S.K.?" Spock went to
retrieve glasses while Leonard pulled two bottles from the
refrigeration unit.

"Sarah Katherine is too pretty a name, and she's too pretty a lady to
be just S.K. Besides, S.K. is the Starfleet officer, I'm dating the
woman not the Commander."

Spock accepted that answer and said nothing as Leonard poured their
respective beverages into the glasses and then returned the bottles
to the unit.

"Now, if I know her, she went for *all* my favorites, which means
that you'll have your choice." He opened the box. "Bless her great
big heart . . ."

"That is not her reputation."

"Okay, then, bless her great big heart even if it is wrapped in
barbed wire. I was right." He turned the opened box toward
Spock. "Two pecan rolls, two Mars mounds, two Saurian sunflower seed
bagels with cinnamon butter, two Bavarian maple creams with chocolate
icing, and two old-fashioned yeast twists."

"A sweet tooth, Leonard? I do not recall you partaking of that many
pastries on the ship."

"I don't have to set a good example in my own home, Spock. Besides,
Chris could tell you that there was always chocolate bar in my desk."

"What is in the box?"

McCoy raised his eyebrows in a mock leer. "The ultimate in late
night caloric decadence, Mr. Spock. " He handed the box to
Spock. "Go ahead."

Spock opened the box. "Brownies." Deadpan.

"Nope. Fudge brownies with chocolate mint chips in them. Gawd, but
I love that woman." McCoy grabbed one of the brownies and took a
lustful bite.

"She is under the impression she that is not foremost in your


"She said she was number two; I believe she meant she was second to
something or someone else." Spock put the box down and reached for a
brownie for himself.

"What are you talking about?"

"Before she left, she said 'I'll always be second. I know that, but
he refuses to realize that I'm okay with that. He won't accept me
because he's romantic enough and passionate enough to think that
folks shouldn't just settle.'"

"You wanna clue me in here? What made her say something like that to
you of all people?"

"I am uncertain, though she wished me to discuss with you your
intentions to resign from Starfleet.

Leonard purposively took another bite of the brownie refusing to meet
Spock's gaze.

"Is it your intention to resign?"

"Eat your brownie, Spock."

"You are changing the subject, Leonard."

"No, I'm not changing it. I'm avoiding it. It's my home, my damned
bakery goods, and my fucking choice. And I'll make it when I'm damn
good and ready."

"I do not deny the veracity of any of your statements. I merely
inquired if it is your intention to resign."

"I've considered it."

"Jim will not be pleased if you do so directly."

"Well thank you very much. Just what I need--a Vulcan trying to
guilt trip me."

"I only wish to point out that he relies on you, and with his recent
loss, demotion, and uncertain command, he would feel your absence."

"He handled yours and your were dead." McCoy regretted it as soon as
it was spoken. " I'm sorry, Spock. That was low. Chalk it up to my
being tired, will ya."

Spock said nothing, merely took another bite of his brownie.

"Actually, I'm not all that sure how Jim was handling your death. I
was only lucid about half the time myself, and then I was hiding out
in Sickbay hoping I wouldn't have to treat anything more serious than
a hangnail. But Jim is strong; he'll bounce back, *especially* with
you around again. In fact, you two should spend some time together;
see if you can get him to talk about David. And you need to watch to
make sure that he's only trying to shoulder his own guilt and grief,
not Carol's too. Supporting each other is one thing, but I'm not
convinced that Carol won't try to lay this all on Jim."

Spock marveled, though not for the first time, how easily the man
before him went from irascible to compassionate caregiver. "Perhaps
you are better suited to helping Jim."

"I'm not abandoning him, you elf. I'm saying that you should spend
time with him."

"Do you not think my presence will only serve to remind him of his

"No, it'll remind him that David did not die in vain but for a
reason. Yes, David was his son. But Jim barely knew him. You're
his best friend. You're the closest thing he's got to family."

"We are his best friends, Leonard. He relies on us both. And I will
endeavor to aid Jim in any way I can. But this still does not
explain why you are contemplating resigning."

"I . . . I'm tired, Spock. Let's talk about this some other time."

"Leonard, I gathered from the Commander's comments that I may somehow
weigh in your decision." He paused considering his request. "Please,
I would appreciate knowing if that is the case."

"And if you are, what the hell are you gonna do about it?" Damn you,
Sarah Kate. Why did you say anything, he thought.

"That would depend, of course, on how I weigh in your decision."

Okay, get a grip and maybe he'll drop it. "You don't, Spock. Sarah
Kate doesn't either. I'm thinking about it; that's all. Now if you
want to stay here instead of going back to the base, you know where
the guest room is. But I'm going to bed." And ignoring his
upbringing regarding guests in his home, he left Spock alone in the

Illogically, Spock did not want to go to his assigned quarters. He
found to his surprise that he wanted to stay with Leonard. He
reviewed the entire day in his mind looking for clues to the doctor's
behavior, and began mentally ticking them off.
1) the answers regarding the katra and fal-tor-pan: designed to
pacify the media without revealing any specifics. Leonard loathed
press conferences and once referred to the media as "mites on an
Orion cow's butt." Leonard might push Spock about the Vulcan need
for privacy and he frequently ignored Spock's attempts at privacy.
But he never used it against him or shared anything that he learned
with others.

2) the mention of another grandchild. Leonard loved his daughter and
her children. He enjoyed playing the devoted grandfather. But he
could not bring himself to believe that Leonard would resign to spend
more time with his family. The word had been 'resign' not 'retire.'

3) Leonard had said nothing to him of any import during dinner. In
fact, Leonard had said little to anyone. Most unusual, but Leonard
had indicated he was not well. Could Leonard be ill? Is that why he
suffered a negative reaction to the katra?

Spock left Leonard's kitchen and went to stand in front of the patio
door. Once before Leonard had pulled away from them because of

4) The conversation with the Commander. Nothing in her remarks
indicated Leonard was ill. In fact:
4a) the commander had said the resignation was not because he had to,
or wanted to, but because he did not know what else to do. Ergo,
Leonard can see no other recourse than resignation.
4b) affair--the word affair had irritated the commander even more.
4c) 'but I was, sir.' Implications that she was talking of his
relationship with Leonard.
4d) Leonard thinks people should not settle re: context of romance
and passion.
4e) her threat: you hurt, you do, you drag, you make. You. Me.

5) Leonard's modesty about his nakedness. Leonard McCoy was a modest
and humble man when it came to his skills and achievements, but he
had never been modest about his body. He had, in fact, literally
given his shirt off his back to patients and crew in need of warmth,
and torn his own uniform to use as bandages.
5a) Poker. Spock had once found Checkov, Sulu, and Yeomens Aesha and
Sykes playing cards in a secluded area of a seldom-used cargo bay.
Each was in varying stages of undress. When he had asked Leonard
about it, Leonard had spent 8.34 minutes extolling the virtues of
strip poker. Again, why was being seen in a towel embarrassing to a
man who had played strip poker? Strike the last. Leonard rarely
lost at poker. In all probability he would not have been forced to
remove many items of clothing.

He resisted a sigh and going back for another brownie.

6) No comment about S.K. being second in his life.
6a) the only person Leonard had engaged in a romantic relationship
with for any length of time with any consistency, but
6b) they were 'on again and off again.'
6c) Leonard doesn't think folks 'should settle'. Himself
included? 'Ask him why he is willing to settle for nothing instead
of his second choice'.

7) Jim. Pushing me to spend more time with Jim. Inconclusive given
the circumstances.

So what did he have that fit? (4b+4c+4e) X (6+6a+6b+6c)+5X N (N being
that S.K. is a master of language and meaning). The commander
believes Leonard is planning to resign because he loves me. Would
she be in position to know? Would her perceptions not be biased? Yet
Leonard did not specifically deny her claims that she was second in
his heart.

Spock could not stop himself if he wanted to, and he realized with no
regret or remorse that he did not want to stop himself. So he smiled
to his own reflection in the glass door. Leonard McCoy loves me.

But the smile quickly evaporated. If he loves me, why would he wish
to resign? Is not the logical choice to remain in Starfleet near
me? Perhaps he needed to rethink his hypothesis before he considered
testing it.

Leonard awoke, not suddenly, but with awareness that he knew from
experience meant he wasn't going back to sleep anytime soon. He
rolled over to check the chronometer. Geeze, three hours. A whole
three hours sleep. He wondered what had awakened him. He didn't
remember a dream. The house was quiet. His bladder was just now
beginning to assert itself in his awakened state. "Got my nap out"
he said to the darkened room. Must be from sleeping on those slabs
Vulcans call mattresses. Sighing loudly he padded to the bathroom,
took care of his bladder even though he really didn't need to, and
decided to go see about his mail. He had neglected that when he got
home, and maybe looking over it would make him sleepy again.
Besides, he knew he should see if Spock stuck around or went back to
his quarters.

Donning robe and slippers, he left his bedroom. The door to the
guest room was still open, so he anticipated that Spock had left. He
was surprised when he saw the kitchen light still on and a soft glow
from the patio. He went to the door and saw Spock, sitting sideways
on a chaise, arms resting on knees with fingers steepled before him,
a low candle at the side casting shadows. He resisted the urge to
stare. He resisted the urge to go to Spock and trace his finger along
the side of the upswept ear, to run the back of his hand along the
jaw, to card his fingers through silky hair.

Leonard opened the door, and then immediately went back to the sofa
to grab the afghan that lay over the back. Going out to the patio he
wondered what possessed his friend to retreat out here, let alone
remain at all.

"It's a little chilly out here for you, isn't it?" He put the
blanket around Spock's shoulders.

"I do not seem to be as bothered by the dampness as I once was. But
thank you for the blanket."

"It looks like it is getting foggy, too. You want to come inside."

"Fitting. Humans are illogical."

Taken aback by the change of subject, but curious as to what Spock's
contemplation was all about, McCoy merely shrugged. "That's hardly a
news flash."

"I have gotten much better over the years at understanding humans,
partly because when I did not understand you were there to help me.
But I find that I still do not understand you. And I find that that
greatly disturbs me."

Moved by Spock's admission, he sat down on the chaise next to him. If
Spock were Jim, he would reach out to him physically as well as
verbally, but this wasn't Jim. And Leonard would not reach out to
touch him in that manner. "I think you know me better than just
about anybody. What is it you don't understand?"

"Why you are thinking of resigning?"

"We're back to that? You've been out here thinking on that! You are
a dog with a bone, Spock. That certainly hasn't changed."

"No, I have been thinking that you have developed feelings of a
romantic nature for me. Which makes resignation completely
illogical. I have gone back and forth over my conclusions for the
last three hours, and I can see no error on my part. Only illogic on

There was no ego or accusation in that remark. And the honest
bafflement was clear in those dark eyes even in the dim light.

McCoy forced air through his nose and ran his hand through his
hair. "Makes sense to me. I've given a lot of thought to it, my
logical friend. It may not be rational to you, but given the
alternatives, it makes the most sense to me."

"Again, I do not understand. . . .But you do admit you have such
feelings for me?"

"Yes, Spock I do." McCoy started to rise, but was halted by a hand
on his leg. He sat back down and the hand was withdrawn. "I have
for quite some time."

"Then why do you wish to resign, and why do you wish to resign now?"

"I'm not sure I can explain it."

"Try." This was as close to an order being issued as Spock had
delivered to Leonard in a long time.

He took a deep breath. He had been trying to make sense of his gut
for years. "Hope is a tremendous force--in solving problems, in
healing, in daily living and general well being. I've counted on
hope, hung patient's lives on it, and seen you and Jim hang the ship
and the crew on it too. And I've hoped for more than a friendship
with you. Yet for all the good it brings, I've discovered there
comes a time when hope . . . hurts."

"Your feelings for me cause you pain."

"Not exactly, no. In fact, my feelings for you bring me much

"Then it is being in my presence which causes you grief."

"No, that's not it either. Ah hell, Spock. When you died," he
didn't finish that thought. "Do you remember what we were like when
I first joined the Enterprise?"

"An eidetic memory does infer that, Leonard."

"Okay. Well, I remember it too. We didn't get along, not by a long
shot. I didn't expect you to like me right off the bat; we didn't
know each other. But I did sort of expect you to at least respect my
position, if not me. And well, from where I stood, you didn't have
much use for the position, and damn little use for me."

"That was not my intention."

"Hello, remember me, Leonard McCoy. Human. It's not what you
intended; it's what I perceived. Anyway, things eventually calmed
down and I started to feel like you at least respected the position
and were coming to respect my abilities. And I noticed that you were
getting closer to Jim. That you two were becoming friends. I wanted
that for both of you. I do know what command is like--that's why I
don't want it. So I figured as long as you and Jim were becoming
friends that things would be okay, and that I might be able to help
the friendship along. I knew that by baiting you, I was forcing you
to defend yourself and forcing you to spend more time with Jim in
trying to figure out how us Humans work. No one, not even a Vulcan,
can live in isolation. Jim was your lifeline. But over time you
started coming to me for advice. We discovered that we worked well
in the lab together. You tolerated my questions about Vulcan and
Vulcan physiology. We found common interests in science, in the well
being of the crew, and in Jim. And one day, I realized I liked you.
A lot. And more time went on and you developed a sense of humor of
sorts and teased me back. And I knew I was in love. But I also knew
that you were barely accepting my friendship, that there was still
part of you that rejected human need and human friendships. So I
said nothing, and just went on. But hope, hope grew anyway."

Spock rose and walked to the edge of the patio, staring at a much-
neglected fern.

"And then the mission was over."

"I went to Gol."

"And when I discovered what that really meant, hope died. My
feelings for you didn't. Oh sure, they faded after a time. I found
others to lose myself in, and fortunately found new research. When
I was recalled and ended up on the Enterprise with Jim, I was not
happy about it. I had put that part of my life away in a nice neat
little box called 'been there, done that.' I was so unsure of myself
that I might as well as have been a brand new recruit. New Sickbay,
mostly new personnel, new ship, new uniforms. Hell, I couldn't even
tell who was who. I really was starting all over again. And then lo
and behold you show up all super Vulcan, acting like the previous
years had never happened, or worse that you wished they hadn't."

"I was lost. It was difficult for me to realize that, even more
difficult for me to know what to do about it."

"And you go and pull some damn fool stunt like merging with V'Ger and
almost make sure you're lost for good."

"Gol was supposed to be my answer. It was supposed to be the reason
for my existence."

"Spock, the reason for your existence is because your parents had
sex, and Sarek's sperm were good swimmers and Amanda had an egg
waiting. That's the reason for your existence. It's what you do once
you exist that matters."

Spock turned to face Leonard, the amusement clear in his
stance. "The masters of Gol would take exception to your theory, I

"Bring 'em on. You, yourself, came to the conclusion that logic is a
beginning. It's not the end, and it sure as hell isn't the journey."

"What about your feelings for me?"

"Well, after V'Ger I thought about resigning again, going back to the
life I had created, but Jim was going back to Ops with a new purpose,
you were returning to Starfleet; I had an offer to go back to fleet
medical, seemed like it was worth pursuing. Slowly we seemed to find
what we had lost. We didn't pick up right where we had left off, but
we started from a better understanding. You started taking an
initiative in our friendship. You started to think of me separately
from Jim."

"I have always done so."

"Maybe; maybe it's just that your relationship with Jim has always
overshadowed everybody else. Anyway, things were pretty good. I
enjoyed having your friendship. I appreciated, more than I ever told
you I now realize, that you asked for me specifically on the training
missions. And damn if all those buried feelings didn't start to
resurface, and damn if hope didn't grow all over again. But there
just seemed to be more to risk this time. Maybe it's because I'm
older, maybe it's because I'd lost your friendship once before, who
knows, but I didn't want to lose what we had because I had feelings
for you that you didn't return."

"How do you know I had no feelings for you?"

"Oh gimme a break, will you? I gave you every opportunity to express
an interest. If you weren't interested in Jim that way, you weren't
going to be interested in me. How many times have you bemoaned the
fact that Sarek is after you to take a mate and carry on the line?
You've been looking at and rejecting his selections for years. If
you were interested in really getting him to stop you would take a
male consort just to shut him up."

"That would hardly be logical."

"When have you and Sarek ever been logical with one another, Spock?
For a time I thought you might have designs on Saavik."

"I am about as likely to mate with Saavik as you are to marry Joanna."

"I know that now, but sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake.
Regardless, my feelings grew again, and the hope grew again. And
then I watched you die. And something inside of me just went numb.
Now your back, and it looks like we're going to serve together again,
and I know that no matter what I do that hope is going to grow all
over again. I just don't think I can handle that again. I don't
think I want to. I'd rather resign, go in to private practice, and
concentrate on something other than trying to keep my love for you
from ruining what we've had."

Spock had been wandering around the small patio but finally came to
stand behind him. "What of Commander Weatherford?"

"Are you asking about my feelings for her?"

"If you resign will you continue to see her?"

"Depends on where I resign to, I guess. Sarah Kate is reliable and
welcoming. I'm not proud to admit that I've probably been using her
as a substitute for something else. I do care for her; don't get me
wrong. I care for her a lot. She's a very special lady and one I
could easily continue to see. But on the other hand, I don't love her
enough to let my world revolve around her."

"I do not wish you to resign from Starfleet because of me. If you
wish to leave to open up your own practice, I could understand that.
I could envy your patients."

McCoy turned on the chaise to look at Spock. "That may be the nicest
thing you've ever said to me."

The silence hung heavy between them for several moments. "Come on
Spock, let's go inside before the fog really rolls in." He started to
move, but Spock had moved faster. Leonard felt a warm hand on his
shoulder, urging him to remain seated.


"Please, Spock. Be angry. Be surprised. Be confused. Be amused. Be
anything but pitying. I absolutely could not handle your pity. I'd
rather you think me foolish, or that you hate me than that."

"I could never hate he who held my soul in death, Leonard. Anymore
than I could hate he who gave me my soul in life. It just happens
that he is the same man." Moving his hand to Leonard's arm, he sat
next to him on the chaise. "Do you trust me?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"Do you trust me?"

"Are you gonna nerve pinch me again?"

"Only if necessary."

The response clearly surprised Leonard, but it also demonstrated
Spock's sincerity. "Yes, I trust you. You know that."

Spock pulled Leonard back to lean against his chest and wrapped one
arm around him to hold him in place.

"What are you up to?"

"Trust me."

Spock ran his other hand up Leonard's right arm, over his shoulder,
his neck, the jaw and side of his face until his fingers were at the
right temple. Placing his fingers to the familiar points, he
whispered, "may I?"

Spock saw Leonard close his eyes, and placing his own temple against
Leonard's left temple he began the ancient words, "my mind to your
mind . . ."

Only this time it was different. It wasn't Spock entering Leonard's
mind to place something there--a suggestion that the Earps weren't
real on Melkotian, or his katra, or to remove something like the pain
of the mirror Spock's meld. This time Spock opened his mind to

Leonard lost all sense of time and space. He felt and saw Spock's
emotions, all of them, directed toward those they both knew and those
only Spock knew. He felt Spock's sadness at Leonard's pain along
with Spock's overwhelming pride at Leonard's love for him. Beautiful
crystal prisms shone reflecting sun and sand and blue skies and clear
water. Resonant chimes both rich and woody and crisp and bright
sounded. He learned that though Spock's feelings for him grew much
slower than his own for Spock did, that they were just as real and
just as strong.

They moved together along whispery shimmers of light until he heard
Spock say in his mind, //may I stay?//

Somehow he understood the question and its meaning, and more
miraculously he knew how to respond, //I'd like that very much.// And
then out loud, "Seems it's been a little lonely in there."

Spock slowly withdrew his fingers and broke the meld while leaving
the link in tact. He brushed his lips long Leonard's temple in a
very human gesture of love and appreciation.

"How come you never told me?"

Spock actually looked embarrassed. "It did not seem to be the logical
course of action."


"I am not sure I know how, to coin a Terran phrase, to make this
work. But I know I would like very much to try."

"Letting me know how you feel is an excellent start I think. And
asking to be assigned together so that we have the opportunity to
make it work would certainly seem in order. You sure this is what
you want, Spock?"

"Yes." And to prove his point he kissed Leonard fully.

"Hmm. . .Do you know what one of my all time favorite things happens
to be, Spock?"

A raised eyebrow. "Morning sex."

A wide grin. "How'd you know?"

"I guessed. A custom I seemed to have picked up recently. But in
this case, I shall not complain."

They rose and made their way back into the house. "Leonard?"

"Yes, sweetheart?"

"What *is* a Mars mound?"

[the end]